NEAR VENICE, La. – The search for 11 missing workers from a Gulf of Mexico rig that exploded late Tuesday continued into Wednesday evening even as the Coast Guard commander confirmed that they "have no idea where they are.”
The 11 people went missing and another 15 were injured, three critically in the blast and fire that occurred on the Deepwater Horizon rig, about 50 miles off the coast of Venice, Louisiana.
Many of those with minor injuries had been taken by chopper to area hospitals and were released. Sources close to the investigation say 94 survivors are supposed to arrive at midnight to Port Fouchon. From there they are to be picked up in buses and transported to a hotel where they’ll meet with their families.
The families of one of the missing 11 workers, Shane Roshto, said they’re the first to file a lawsuit in federal court to try to get jurisdiction in their favor so Transocean wouldn’t have the benefit in court.
“About 11:30 they called my daughter in law to find out if that was the right contact number, and around 2 they called her and told her he was a missing person ,” said Denise Arnold, one of the missing crewman’s mother. “Words can’t even describe knowing that you’re son is out there. Keep showing it on TV, the fire and everything. It’s just a hard thing to describe.”
The emphasis of the search and rescue mission was the missing personnel. Earlier in the day erroneous reports surfaced that they had been found and rescued.
“We have no idea where they are,” said Rear Admiral Mary Landry, commander of the Coast Guard’s Eighth District. Landry said the search would continue throughout the evening as crews had equipment that would allow a search in the darkness of night.
When the explosion happened, the rig was drilling but was not in production, according to Greg Panagos, spokesman for its owner, Transocean Ltd. in Houston. The rig was under contract to BP PLC.
As the search continued, the massive $350 million rig was still on fire, and there was concern over whether it would eventually submerge into the Gulf of Mexico.
David Rainey, the vice-president of Gulf of Mexico Exploration for BP, said that initial environmental damage was minimal as the oil and gas burned off, but said that could change as the fire is put out.
The explosion occurred around 10 p.m. Tuesday on the Deepwater Horizon. As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, officials said the fire continued to burn.
"Three (injured workers) were met by ambulance at Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans; two were medevaced to West Jefferson hospital in New Orleans, La. by air ambulance and two were flown to Mobile Trauma Center in Mobile, Ala.," said a statement from the Coast Guard.
West Jefferson spokeswoman Taslin Alfonzo confirmed that four people were brought to their facility, two via ambulance and two via helicopter. All four were later released from the hospital, she said.
A spokesperson from the interim LSU hospital in New Orleans said late Wednesday night that another injured crew member was discharged, leaving only two crew members still hospitalized.
The rig belongs to Transocean and was being operated for BP.
A hotline has been set up by the company for family members. For information, call 832-587-8554. BP spokesman Darren Beaudo said all BP personnel were safe but he didn't know how many BP workers had been on the rig. Adrian Rose, vice president of Transocean, said crews were doing routine work before the explosion and there were no signs of trouble.